Duke’s odds of winning the national championship are lengthening in Las Vegas following the team’s blowout loss to UNC and injury to Zion Williamson.
The most anticipated college basketball game so far this year took an ugly turn less than a minute after the tip. Williamson – the game’s biggest superstar and almost a lock for the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft – tore through his shoe in a freak injury. The freshman left the game and never returned.
The average ticket price to get inside the 9,314-seat Cameron Indoor Stadium was more than $2,500. Fans wanted to see the greatest rivalry in the game, featuring the best player in recent memory. They instead watched a blowout.
No. 8 North Carolina won 88-72 over top-ranked Duke. With the loss, paired with Williamson’s injury, oddsmakers in Las Vegas are easing the Blue Devils’ title chances.
The sportsbook at Caesars Palace extended Duke’s NCAA Championship odds from +200 to +250. The switch alters the team’s implied odds from 33.33 percent to 28.57 percent. A $100 bet and a Duke title now nets $250.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski says Williamson suffered a minor right knee sprain. The Blue Devils have five games remaining, including a regular season-ending visit to Chapel Hill. But whether the team’s superstar will be suited up is in question.
Several ESPN college basketball analysts believe Williamson will shut it down and prepare for the NBA.
He’s still the No. 1 pick. And he’s also going to get a bunch of endorsement money the moment he enters the draft. It’s best to preserve what’s coming and sit the rest of the season in that scenario,” ESPN senior college basketball writer Myron Medcalf opined.
The internet is, of course, where rumors swirl, and one leading storyline on Thursday is that Williamson planned the injury to sit the rest of the year. After all, how many times has a player’s foot ripped through their shoe?
Medcalf, however, tweeted, “‘He orchestrated this.’ Shaking my head about this whole thing.”
Team Odds Shorten
With Duke’s loss – and Williamson’s questionability – other teams are seeing their title odds shorten.
Gonzaga has moved from +700 to +500. Virginia and Kentucky have both lowered from +800 to +700.
Asked whether Duke can win the national championship without Williamson, Medcalf said, “No. To beat Gonzaga, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, and the other elite teams in the NCAA tournament, the Blue Devils will need the most versatile player in the country.”
Fellow ESPN college ball analyst Jeff Borzello agrees. “If you talk to coaches around the ACC or coaches who have faced Duke, Zion is their biggest concern. You simply can’t prepare for someone like him in terms of trying to guard him,” Borzello stated.
“Without Zion, the offense is too limited. The Blue Devils will essentially have three non-shooters or poor shooters and two non-creators on the court at all times. I still think they’re good, just not a title-winning team,” he concluded.